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Well, I could be restricted from ever visiting Arkansas again. In a recent column about possessives, I wrote that the possessive form with the state should be "Arkansas' history," for example. That follows the guidelines from The Associated Press Stylebook. And I believe it's fine to use in the other 49 states and likely all the U.S. territories.

But I learned from a reader that the Arkansas General Assembly has ruled otherwise. I am a scofflaw. A 2007 resolution supported by the governor said that in the example above, it should be "Arkansas's history."

Oh, wait. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette follows the AP rule, with no "s" after the apostrophe. So, if I do attempt a clandestine visit to Arkansas, I will seek asylum in the newsroom.


A reader asked about the various iterations of "new."

Many people capitalize on its variations in meaning.

When I buy a car, I likely will call it a new car for at least a month, or until it gets its first scratch.

Some game show announcer used to call it "a brand-new car!" The dictionary says brand-new means new and unused.

A folksy salesperson might say the car is "brand spanking new." Some people think that "spanking" part comes from the spanking of a newborn, but many experts deny this. Another theory is that "spanking" started out meaning "fast." But that doesn't explain it either.

Would you buy something that's "like new"? For me, it would depend on how much of a discount the "like" equals.

The phrase "showroom new" has various meanings, depending primarily on the honesty of the seller. I think it's used more by used-car dealers. Sometimes, a showroom-new car means the outside is sparkling, and the insides are perfect. Other times, the outside shines while the inside holds a sputtering engine and worn gaskets.

In an earlier column, I mentioned the silliness of the word "newer." How can something be more new than new?

I giggle at the phrase "new baby." I've never seen an old baby.

"New money" is an uncomplimentary phrase for people who have come into money recently. The stereotype is that these people buy flashy cars, clothes and jewels. Often, the implication is that they are tacky. In the musical Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson insults Alexander Hamilton when he says, "Smells like new money, dresses like fake royalty."

Overall, "new" has endless usages, and being cautious about its use is probably a good idea.


I know from watching countless Law and Order episodes that lawyers use the word "pled" fairly often.

He pled guilty to all charges.

The AP Stylebook says "pled" is colloquial, and that people should use "pleaded" for the past tense of plead. Black’s Law Dictionary, the premier legal reference book, also recommends "pleaded" over "pled."

Some lawyers object to this, using the ubiquitous argument, "No one talks like that." Lawyers are going to argue, no? (Full disclosure: "No one talks like that" is one of my favorite arguments when I choose not to follow stringent rules.)


Many people continue to use "lay" when they should be using "lie."

Wrong: When I see the sun shine, I want to lay on the beach.

Right: When I see the sun shine, I want to lie on the beach.

The key is to know who is taking the action. You carry yourself to the beach, and you lie down.

If you were to put an item in place, you lay it on the table. It can't lie itself down. It's inanimate.

Of course, many people know the line from the child's prayer, "Now, I lay me down to sleep." Using it there is poetic license.


Only one reader came up with a vocal burst for me. I'm not hurt.

Hers was "umm." This flexible burst has slightly different meanings depending on how many m's you choose to add. When I speak to large groups of people, I use "um" at least every 10 words. People trying to remember something might use "ummm." And if I know the answer to someone's question but I am hesitant to answer, I add lots of m's.

Jack: Is my apple crumb pie the best you've ever had?

Me: (taking an apple pit out my mouth) Ummmmmmmmm.


I'll write about one topic from my brain, rather than from other brains.

I wondered where the term "potter's field" came from. I know it was used in the Bible, and so I'm afraid I'll get something wrong. The Gospel of Matthew says Judas tried to return the 30 pieces of silver he received for betraying Jesus. The priests used it to buy a potter's field, where poor people or unidentified people would be buried (after death, of course). This original potter's field was so named because potters would dig for clay to make their pottery. Potter's fields exist in many cities today. I want to believe that potters no longer get their raw material from such plots.

Sources include Merriam-Webster, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette archives, the Chicago Tribune, World Wide Words, ABA Journal, Grammarist. Reach Bernadette at

[email protected]

Style on 11/25/2019

Print Headline: What else is new these days?

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